SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Nearly two-dozen crashes could be connected to a bribery scandal where federal investigators say truck drivers paid thousands of dollars for fraudulent licenses.
California Department of Motor Vehicles investigators say the alleged corruption could be tied to the crashes after untrained drivers were put behind the biggest vehicles on the road.
"That's just stupid," said truck driver George McDonald.
He would know. McDonald got his license legally.
"If you're not properly trained to drive one, a truck, you have really no business behind it," he said.
But the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DMV investigated three separate alleged conspiracies. They claim as many as 100 truck drivers paid up to $5,000 for commercial driver's licenses they never actually earned.
"Our mission is particularly crucial when the conduct not only violates public trust but endangers public safety," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.
His office says two truck school owners in Sacramento and Turlock and an owner of truck schools in Fremont, Lathrop and Salinas funneled money to three DMV employees located in Salinas and Sacramento. From there, they say DMV employees falsified computer records to show truckers passed written or behind-the-wheel tests they failed or never took.
"Allowing unqualified drivers to operate heavy commercial trucks on our highways is honestly quite chilling," said Carol Webster with Homeland Security.
DMV investigators say the scam could have caused up to 23 crashes, none deadly. In addition to the 100 truckers, the DMV says it suspended or canceled an additional 502 licenses they say appear suspicious.
CBS13 visited where the Sacramento truck school owner told law enforcement was the location of his school. There was no school, just an empty field.
"It's a lot of people who like to cheat," said truck driver Raymond Hernandez.
He says we're all safe on the roads since the alleged corruption was uncovered.
One DMV employee and one truck school owner have already pleaded guilty. The remaining four defendants have court dates in the coming months.
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